After an intensive protest campaign of two months by NGO Mighty Earth and SumOfUs group, Samsung has announced that it does not intend to collaborate with Korindo, a Korean-Indonesian conglomerate that has destroyed rainforests on its palm oil plantations. The announcement comes as a victory for the environmental advocates who had carried out an online campaign after Samsung announced its joint venture with Korindo in June.
The Korean media covered the news of the Samsung IT subsidiary, Samsung SDS, and Korindo joint venture extensively in June, following which SumOfUs.org started an online petition. It now has more than 73,000 signatures, including 15,000 signatures from Samsung customers. Mighty Earth delivered the petition directly to Samsung's Seoul main office where they also met Samsung executives from the Corporate Social Responsibility team.
In a letter dated August 31, Samsung SDS's CEO said: "that we [Samsung SDS] do not have any plans to develop a business between the two companies."
"Samsung is doing the right thing by dropping ties with the notorious deforester Korindo. Korindo's deforestation has put its business at risk in many different sectors, not just palm oil. We hope Korindo wakes up to the reality that even from a business perspective, it can't continue to allow deforestation," said Deborah Lapidus, Campaign Director with Mighty Earth.
Mighty Earth and SumOfUs have also asked Samsung to stop deforestation and local exploitation in the palm oil plantations it manages with Ganda Group, an Indonesian company. Human rights lawyers from Advocates for Public Interest Law (APIL) conducted an investigation in December 2016 which revealed gross labor and community rights violation in the plantations. Additionally, Ganda Group is infamous for causing widespread deforestation in Papua, Indonesia.
For Samsung, this is the first step towards environmental protection, after several of its customers sent personal emails regarding the Korindo partnership. "I own two of your TVs and recently switched my Galaxy back to Apple because of your Korindo involvement. As long as you continue to have an environmentally irresponsible ethos I will not be a customer, and I will share that with my friends and on social media", read one such email.
"We are glad that Samsung took the messages from its customers to heart," said Fatah Sadaoui, Campaign Manager with SumOfUs. "It was clear from the overwhelming response to our petition that people expect a company with as big a brand name and global reach as Samsung to maintain high standards of environmental and social responsibility for its own business and its business partners. I think Samsung was smart to work to boost its global reputation by severing ties with Korindo."
Sadaoui and Ladipus also agree that Samsung needs to clean up its image by working on its palm oil plantation so that the brand integrity and customer loyalty are restored.